Scala Dei Priorat Cartoixa 2003
Critical AcclaimAll Vintages
Scala Dei (Latin for "Ladder of God") is the oldest winery in the Priorat region, being established by Carthusian monks in 1163. Nowadays, it still conserves the same traditional spirit of its origin.
The dramatic terroir of the region surrounding the winery is breathtakingly steep –Scala Dei owns 220 acres of vineyard distributed over 40 different sites – and covered in black slate. Moreover, the extremely low yields, in some cases only two pounds of fruit per vine, produce highly concentrated grapes.
Scala Dei has hence a very limited production of hand crafted wines, which capture the essence of the abrupt landscape, the intense climate and the old vines, resulting in a great variety of flavors that age well. In short, wines with a truly unique, regional flavor
Tiny and entirely composed of craggy, jagged and deeply terraced vineyards, Priorat is a Catalan wine-producing region that was virtually abandoned until the early 1990s. This Spanish wine's renaissance came with the arrival of one man, René Barbier, who recognized the region’s forgotten potential. He banded with five friends to create five “Clos” in the village of Gratallops. Their aim was to revive some of Priorat’s ancient Carignan vines, as well as plant new—mainly French—varieties. These winemakers were technically skilled, well-trained and locally inspired; not surprisingly their results were a far cry from the few rustic and overly fermented wines already produced.
This movement escalated Priorat’s popularity for a few reasons. Its new wines were modern and made with well-recognized varieties, namely old Carignan and Grenache blended with Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. When the demand arrived, scarcity commanded higher prices and as the region discovered its new acclaim, investors came running from near and far. Within ten years, the area under vine practically doubled.
Priorat’s steep slopes of licorella (brown and black slate) and quartzite soils, protection from the cold winds of the Siera de Monstant and a lack of water, leading to incredibly low vine yields, all work together to make the region’s wines unique. While similar blends could and are produced elsewhere, the mineral essence and unprecedented concentration of a Priorat wine is unmistakable.
With bold fruit flavors and accents of sweet spice, Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre form the base of the classic Rhône Red Blend, while Carignan, Cinsault and Counoise often come in to play. Though they originated from France’s southern Rhône Valley, with some creative interpretation, Rhône blends have also become popular in other countries. Somm Secret—Putting their own local spin on the Rhône Red Blend, those from Priorat often include Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. In California, it is not uncommon to see Petite Sirah make an appearance.